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30:4, Reviews at a particular material cause, who can say whether the English decadence would claim its present place in Uterary history if John Lane had not joined Elkin Mathews in founding the Bodley Head? To descend from general problems of literary and historical analysis to a specific question, I must wonder whether the Neogrammarians' argument that language is "a system blindly obeying impersonal phonological rules in isolation from any world of human values and experience" (xii) offered in itself so unsettling a vision of the autonomy of language. Dowling makes the important point that Ferdinand de Saussure's training derived from Bopp and Grimm, but it seems to me that not until Saussure could make his argument that language exists without positive terms did the relation between reason and language become threateningly problematic. The phenomenon of phonetic change is one thing, semantic relativity is quite another. On the other hand, of course, the Neogrammarians' challenge to the linguistic authority of past literary movements was troubling. But if Dowling has not tracked decadence to an only begetter, she has nevertheless written an essential book. The argument of the "Conclusion" to The Renaissance has never seemed sufficiently to account for the influence on succeeding writers regarded as decadent that Uterary and cultural historians have assigned Pater. No one henceforth will be able to write about literary decadence or Pater's role therein without taking into account Dowling's explanations. More, her book should do much to bring about an awareness of a chapter of linguistic history too little regarded by Uterary criticism even in this day of Unguistically -oriented theory. Finally, though this may not be the claim she would most like to make, the perceptive analyses Dowling offers along the way would in themselves justify the book. The reassessment of the opposition between Coleridge and Wordsworth over the common language of men (about which one might have thought everything had been said), the summation of the qualities of Pater's sentence-based prose (with an eye especially to his "aesthetics of delay"), and the insightful commentaries on the 90s poets and finaUy on Yeats (including her discussion of the movement away from mysticism in the three famous stories of The Secret Rose volume) are all first rate. Wendell V. Harris Pennsylvania State University GRANVILLE BARKER Dennis Kennedy. Granville Barker and the Dream of Theatre. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985. $39.50 Harley Granville Barker's ultimate contribution to EngUsh-speaking theatre, Dennis Kennedy suggests in the last chapter of his book, may be "that he 486 30:4, Reviews persistently held to his creed." "His dream of theatre," as Kennedy sums it up, "was a dream to change what drove him out of the theatre." Barker's departure, made at what seemed to everyone the very height of his career, had for many of his contemporaries in the professional theatre the mark of a betrayal. Biographers, most recently Eric Salmon in his Granville Barker: A Secret Life (1983), have understandably seen his love affair with the American heiress Helen Huntington and their eventual marriage as decisive for his departure from the workaday professional stage in favor of a life of study, writing, and translation, with only infrequent brief revisitings of his former life and livelihood. Kennedy is not a biographer, however. His brief is for the coherence of Barker's character as a professional man of the theatre, notwithstanding Barker's abandonment of the life itself, and his book comprises a critical history of Barker and his life's work. Kennedy takes the view that, from a very early point, Barker's ambitions were of a different and much more idealistic kind than were, say, those of George Alexander, lessee and manager of the St. James's Theatre, whose essential contribution was a heightened standard of theatrical quality calculated to flatter the socially-conscious patrons of the theatre as it was. Barker, deeply discontented with the status quo, wanted to achieve something greater and more soul-satisfying than what was available at the St. James's or anywhere else in the contemporary theatre of London or New York. What drew him was the theatre as it might be—The...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 486-489
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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